Posts Tagged ‘Glee’

Steve Jobs iTunes Apple Billboard Hot 100 Rihanna

How Apple Changed Music and Steve Jobs Made Rihanna (and the Cast of Glee and Lil Wayne and Taylor Swift, etc.) a Record-Breaking Star

Written by Hunter Schwarz on . Posted in Music

Apple marked the passing of its co-founder and former chief executive Steve Jobs Wednesday, calling him “a visionary and creative genius.” In the coming weeks, much will be said of Jobs and how he revolutionized the  way we live. Evidence of his impact can be found in pockets carrying app-filled iPhones, DVD collections sprinkled with Pixar films and of course, the Billboard Hot 100.

Before the launch of the iTunes digital store in 2003, the record industry was facing the unprecedented threat of online piracy. Consumers were freed from forking over $15 for an album with one hit song and a tracklist full of filler by file sharing services such as Napster. Suddenly, an industry that had made record profits in the late ’90s with this model (think Chumbawamba, Eiffel 65, Natalie Imbruglia, etc.) scrambled to restore revenue by resorting to lawsuits.


Glee: One Last Shot — First Impressions on Season 3

Written by Hunter Phillips on . Posted in TV

When I started my junior year in high school, I imagined that when I looked back on my four years there, I’d reflect upon it bitterly and with a lot of spite. Of course that wasn’t healthy, but up to that point, my school life hadn’t exactly been rosy.

I grew up in a small town where I fell outside both the religious and political majorities, and my life outside of home was affected because of both. I wasn’t talented athletically, or a social butterfly, but I always had a close group of friends who had similar interests and were pushing for the same thing—to be recognized and respected in the school. By my senior year, I had achieved that more than I would have imagined a year earlier.

Perhaps my trials in high school were what drew me to a pilot that aired after American Idol my junior year, and those experiences are why I continue to have blind faith in that same show — Glee — one that I both admire and loathe at the same time.


Reigning Over Glee: Why Kings of Leon Were Right to Turn Down Ryan Murphy

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in TV

This week Glee creator Ryan Murphy lashed out at indie superstars Kings of Leon for declining the show’s request to use their song “Use Somebody.” In addition to calling the band names and sounding like a spoiled three-year-old, Murphy made one curious and bizarre accusation: by turning down the chance to have a song on Glee, Kings of Leon hate arts education.

Brushing aside the obvious — that Glee is a for-profit TV show, not a school or charity — Murphy’s temper tantrum surprised me. After all, I genuinely never thought Glee was an altruistic endeavour to promote the arts. The mean-spirited characters, all the screen time spent on personal drama, and the perky-but-bitter tone led me to believe the show was aiming for satire, not didacticism. If it genuinely wanted to promote the arts, there are a lot of things it could do, but showing sexy twenty-somethings playing teenagers being mean to each other isn’t one of them.

Of course, there’s no doubt that Glee might make someone want to sing (or that it can be a fun watch). But how is it any better at that mission than other programs, like High School Musical? In fact, the satirical character of the show probably renders it less effective in that regard than more straight-faced media about the arts. I’d rather watch Glee than High School Musical any day, but I also wouldn’t necessarily use it as a marketing tool for the arts. In the end, if Glee exists just to hook people on singing, then it is truly an epic failure.

Glee Christmas

TV: In the War on Christmas, Glee Leads the Charge

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in TV

As Glee episodes go, this week’s “A Very Glee Christmas” isn’t bad. The songs make more sense, a few characters — notably Sue — experience actual development, and there aren’t an abundance of awkward moments.

But besides raising the bar slightly for the show, the episode is also notable for the conspicuously secular approach it brings to what is ostensibly a religious holiday. Given the show’s willingness to address faith in the marvelously titled but poorly executed “Grilled Cheesus” episode, that approach is surprising. It also scores a big secular win for the so-called “war on Christmas,” that perennial conflict between fanatics on the Christian right who want to plug Jesus into the holiday, and their liberal counterparts who feel that thinking about a guy getting kicked around and tortured to death dampens the most wonderful time of the year.

The most obviously secular part of “A Very Glee Christmas” is the song selection. Though some of the greatest — and oldest — Christmas songs are either hymns or religious in origin, no member of New Directions sings them. Instead, they perform a series of classic Christmas-special hits like “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year,” a couple of numbers from the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and a song by The Carpenters (just to make sure there is at least one really lame moment in the episode.)

But song selection isn’t the only secular part of the show. Significantly, Rachel and Puck, two Jewish characters, and Kurt, a formerly anti-religious zealot, show no qualms about partaking in all the seasonal cheer. And while Rachel explains her participation to Finn as just wanting to do something he enjoys, her justification basically boils down to saying, “I might not be a Christian, but what does that have to do with celebrating Christmas?”

And that seems to be the takeaway message. The episode argues that no matter who you are, what you believe in, or how you live, Christmas is for you. In essence, it’s an extension of Glee’s larger multicultural thesis, which is generally admirable.

When it comes to Christmas, however, that idea is also controversial. Every year, people get up in arms about companies using words like “holidays” and “season” instead of “Christmas.” Others lament the commercialization of the holiday, or militantly try to impose Christian symbolism on pagan icons like wreaths and evergreen trees. In “A Very Glee Christmas,” however, those are the very things that matter. Glee’s holiday is all about physical ephemera.

None of this is to say the episode isn’t charming. It really is. The story is also largely about giving, charity and kindness, things that Christians and non-Christians alike tend to value. For those of us who delight mostly in the commercial gaudiness of the season, the episode might even be memorable enough to watch again next year. But for anyone who feels that our modern holiday has strayed from its course, “A Very Glee Christmas” must surely be evidence of one thing: the war on Christmas is far from over.


TV: Glee, Community and Consistency

Written by Hunter Phillips on . Posted in TV

This week’s episode of Glee should have been poised to be one of the highlights of the series’ entire run. Instead, the glee club’s return to competition felt like it came out of nowhere, with no build-up other than characters dropping the word “sectionals” sporadically throughout the season.

Last year, Glee built its first 13-episode run to that final performance at Sectionals, as if the glee club’s entire fate revolved around the competition. Once that first run ended and the show went into hiatus, though, Glee became more and more of a headache to watch and quickly became the most inconsistent show on television.

At its outset, Glee was a show about a high school teacher wanting to relive his glory days, and a group of kids with nowhere to fit in. That group of people came together through a love of music, and made a few fantastic hours of television. Now, the show will have plotlines appear and conclude within a single episode, creating a continuity that is baffling at times. Characters, most prominently Will Schuester, will make complete 180-degree turns in their motives. The characters serve whichever purpose they need to each week, and whenever the show has a big finale-esque episode (like this week’s) that needs to tie the past ten episodes’ loose threads up, the result is anticlimactic and feels unearned.

Even with all this inconsistency, Glee still remains one of the most popular shows on the air. Its success is counter-intuitive to everything ratings machines have been telling America for decades.

TV viewers are supposed to like consistency, familiarity, and characters that won’t change too drastically. This theory is why Two and a Half Men and American Idol, while both very different shows, are hits. They provide a safety for viewers — a show they can watch without thinking too much. Even Modern Family, while churning out smart and hilarious half-hours week after week, sticks to this tried and true principle.

But under most people’s radar, there is a show that reliably outdoes both Glee and Modern Family at their respective games. Community is just as wildly unpredictable as Glee, as Meg Walter pointed out on Rhombus a few weeks ago. The show can jump from a zombie-apocalypse episode to a parody of Mean Girls to an episode ribbing convoluted conspiracy theories — all without ever feeling strained. However, what most viewers of Community forget is that, during the show’s first two seasons, only a handful of episodes have been the genre-bending parodies the show has become praised for.

The rest of Community‘s episodes are smaller in concept, but equally great in comedy. The show began by mostly taking familiar sitcom tropes and turning them on their heads, as evidenced in last month’s exceptional “bottle episode.” These episodes succeed or fail based on the believability of its characters. Community‘s cast began as a group of stereotypes with little development. But while Glee has let its characters stagnate and remain caricatures, Community has given every member of its ensemble unique dreams, fears and motives that can carry an episode. The show’s writers pride themselves on the ability to pair any two characters and make a compelling plot, something they’ve proven in nearly every episode.

A TV show can only succeed if the viewer truly believes that the characters have lives off-screen. Characters need to be a show’s fallback, something it can turn to when a story becomes too absurd or illogical. That has been Glee‘s biggest shortcoming, because without those relationships and character dynamics to fall back on, what should be an important episode in the show’s mythology comes out of nowhere and still feels anticlimactic. It makes for a show that may be enjoyable to watch, but is completely superficial and fake. Building relationships is how shows like The Office and Modern Family have built their success, in making characters that feel like genuinely real people. Through that, a show can take its characters anywhere — even to the moon, as Community has already done this season!

To call Community a parody show is “an oversimplification… and not the whole truth,” to quote the show itself. It is more aptly a show about a group of friends that, when it wants to, can parody just about anything it wants to. By combining that wild inconsistency of Glee with genuine characters to care about, Community is poised to go down as one of the greats.

If all this sounds like a shameless plug to watch Community, that’s because that is exactly what this is. Watch it.

Community airs Thursdays at 7 p.m. on NBC. Glee airs Tuesdays at 7 p.m. on FOX.


TV: Lesbian Cheerleaders: Glee Tackles One of the Biggest Issues in… Porn?

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in TV

The shot cut to a couple pairs of feet on a bed. Seductively, the camera panned up the taut legs, past the titillatingly short cheerleading skirts, up an arched back. Finally, it rested on the faces of two ultra-fine cheerleaders. Oh, and they were making out, more or less.

No, this was not some porn movie, but rather “Duets,” the episode of Glee that aired on October 12th. The scene depicted the first on-screen kiss between cheerleaders Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany (Heather Morris) and, like most episodes of the show, probably aimed to bust up stereotypes and open minds. But unfortunately — and also like so much of what Glee does — the moment instead fell back onto the very stereotypes it sought to dispense.

And what are those stereotypes? In this case, it seems to be that lesbians (or, maybe, bisexual women, as both characters also date men) are hot and lusty nymphs with little clothing and even fewer scruples. And maybe there are some people like that. But it also seems that most people, regardless of their sexual orientation — or experimentation — are real people. Which is to say, in other words, that a romantic, same-sex scene fitting the exact description of a chauvinistic sex fantasy is not particularly progressive, intelligent or original.

Glee is an imperfect show for many reasons — bad pacing, shallow and unsympathetic characters, a frequent complete lack of narrative cohesion — but I can’t say it routinely offends me. In fact, in the newly tea-bagged America, Glee’s aggressive diversity is refreshing. For all its problems, I continue to dig the show’s obvious agenda of promoting tolerance toward just about everyone. Sometimes, such as in the case of Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) relationship with his father, the show even manages to affectingly tackle important issues.

But when Glee falls back on a visual stereotype like “lesbian cheerleaders,” it undermines the noble, if biting, proselytizing it spends so much time on. Art doesn’t always need to provide a pattern for ethical living, but what exactly does the stereotype accomplish in this case? Maybe it’s a kind of satire, but of what? Porn?

Just to be clear, the issue here is this one scene from “Duets,” and the porn-ish way it was produced (costuming, cinematography, narrative justification, etc.). The following week, during the episode “The Rocky Horror Glee Show,” Brittany and Santana shared a couple of flirty moments that seemed more charming, while also developing their characters. With more moments like that, make-out scenes would feel like just another part of an exuberant and delightful romance. As it was in “Duets,” however, any humanity gets stripped away, leaving all but an endorsement of the hyper-erotic, same-sex stereotypes common in media targeted at straight males.

In any case, maybe I’m just a perv, seeing porn in places it doesn’t exist. Maybe I don’t get it. I also know that many people in the gay community have commended Glee generally and, in some cases, this episode specifically. But the show’s lesbian-cheerleader makeout scene seemed a lot closer to porn than entertainment.

More importantly, it seems to run contrary to the show’s overarching objectives and internal standards. Ultimately, it was hypocritical and crossed the line because, at best, it hinted that sexuality doesn’t come with emotion or commitment, it just requires a couple of impossibly hot bodies. And, at worst, it suggested that homosexuality isn’t so much a gender identity as it is a marketing tactic to get horny straight dudes turned on.

TV: Glee’s Unfortunate Decline Into Melodrama

Written by Jim Dalrymple on . Posted in TV

iGlee/i - the worlds most depressing musical.

Glee -- American television's most depressing high school musical.

(Spoiler Alert: This article contains plot information through the most recent episode of Glee.)

After four episodes, I couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me about Fox’s new crown jewel Glee. Then, while watching last week’s episode, I realized Glee doesn’t know if it’s trying to be funny or serious.

Glee’s first few episodes overcame some remarkable shortcomings to become quite endearing. For example, the pilot episode introduces the William McKinley High School glee club, which is populated by a group of worn-out clichés. There’s the gay fashionista, the overweight black girl who can sing like Aretha Franklin, the nerdy guy (perhaps the most unique of the bunch because he’s in a wheelchair), and the attractive but self-important leader Rachel Berry. These characters are so stereotypical that I was left wondering if the show’s writers simply plagiarized parts of School of Rock or any number of better teen comedies.

Surprisingly, however, Glee got a strong start because it mixed these stock characters with fantastic style, strong performances and a familiar (but nevertheless pleasant) underdog story. Though no one on the show was necessarily a “good” person, they were all pretty funny and it looked like Fox might have another winning farce on their hands in the vein of Arrested Development.

And then things got serious. The club’s faculty leader, Will Schuester, became painfully cutthroat while drifting away from his wife; Rachel turned into such a diva that she quit the club; and Finn, Glee’s male lead, discovered his girlfriend was pregnant. Though each episode brought something new to the table, that newness has generally been in the form of either insipid, tangential storylines or “serious” drama that feels more like a primetime soap.

The problem with Glee becoming a soap like 90210 is that all of its ingredients still ought to add up to comedy, but they just get less funny with each week. This is probably most evident among the women of the show, who have fared particularly poorly during the descent into melodrama. Some, like Emma Pillsbury (played charmingly by Jayma Mays), are appealing characters that have apparently been relegated to peripheral roles. Others, like Rachel or Will’s wife Terri, have their most annoying or repulsive qualities emphasized over and over again. The result is that there currently aren’t many people to root for on Glee.

Glee is still in its earliest stages, and there is still time for its writers to figure out how to balance comedy and drama. Other shows have managed to do just that before, and there are certainly many people who want Glee to succeed. However, despite a lot of promise and talented actors, I’m sure I won’t be the only one who stops tuning in if things don’t improve soon.

Jim Dalrymple is a popular culture correspondent for Rhombus. You can follow him on Twitter @jimmycdii.